Mississippi Center for Justice and Venable LLP Sue City of Ridgeland, MS for Race-Based Fair Housing Violations

February 15, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT: Dana Thomas, Communications Director

(o) 769.230.2841

(c) 601.506.9156

dthomas@mscenterforjustice.org

 

Mississippi Center for Justice and Venable LLP Sue City of Ridgeland, MS for Race-Based Fair Housing Violations

Suit alleges City aimed to reduce its minority population by targeting Southeast Ridgeland apartment complexes for destruction and redevelopment

( Jackson, Miss.) February 15, 2016 -- The Mississippi Center for Justice and Venable LLP filed suit today in federal court in Jackson alleging that the City of Ridgeland violated the Fair Housing Act by attempting to eliminate, through rezoning, five apartment complexes that are occupied by predominantly African-American and Latino residents.  These complexes include Baymeadows Apartments, where the individuals named as plaintiffs in the suit reside.

In recent years, according to the suit, Ridgeland officials and certain City residents began complaining—without any supporting evidence—that the City’s “changing demographics” were having a negative impact on schools, driving white residents out, and depressing property values.  The Mayor and Board of Alderman identified the City’s multi-family apartment complexes in Southeast Ridgeland, where a substantial percentage of the City’s minorities live, as the cause of the supposed problem. 

City officials tried several different measures to eliminate the apartment complexes and redevelop the properties.  When it became clear that none would succeed, according to the suit, the City devised a rezoning plan that would require the complexes to be shut down.  The suit accuses the City of rushing through the passage of the new zoning law without adhering to its own standard procedures for rezoning, without performing any studies or analyses that justified rezoning and, breaking from past practice, without exempting the existing use of the affected properties from the law’s restrictions. 

The Southeast Ridgeland complexes are the only properties targeted for destruction under the new zoning ordinance.  According to the suit, the law does not affect any other housing developments with similar population densities, including those with predominantly white residents. 

“The 2014 Zoning Ordinance was intended to displace, and will have the effect of displacing, a substantial portion of Ridgeland’s minority population,” said John Jopling, a managing attorney at the Mississippi Center for Justice.  “This is a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act.”

The suit seeks to have the rezoning provisions of the 2014 zoning law declared invalid and to prohibit the City from enforcing them.